Glutamine and cancer: cell biology, physiology, and clinical opportunities

J Clin Invest. 2013 Sep;123(9):3678-84. doi: 10.1172/JCI69600. Epub 2013 Sep 3.


Glutamine is an abundant and versatile nutrient that participates in energy formation, redox homeostasis, macromolecular synthesis, and signaling in cancer cells. These characteristics make glutamine metabolism an appealing target for new clinical strategies to detect, monitor, and treat cancer. Here we review the metabolic functions of glutamine as a super nutrient and the surprising roles of glutamine in supporting the biological hallmarks of malignancy. We also review recent efforts in imaging and therapeutics to exploit tumor cell glutamine dependence, discuss some of the challenges in this arena, and suggest a disease-focused paradigm to deploy these emerging approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Glutamine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Organ Specificity


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Glutamine